Selection of articles relating to the role of women and / or womanhood suffrage in local newspapersLocal newspapers often reported on issues of social concern. Following are esamples of some of the topics of interest regarding the role of women in 1891. The role of women in regard to work and the type of work suitable for and selected by women was an issue in 1891. Women's attitude to marriage was another issue discussed in the local press.
News of the Week
WOMAN SUFFRAGES. – It is understood that the Government have decided to limit the Parliament franchise to be granted woman to those whose names appear on the rate-payers' roll, the Cabinet being of the opinion that Parliament would not sanction womanhood suffrage. By the measure the Government intend to submit to Parliament all women over 21 years of age whose names appear on the rate-payers' roll will be entitled to the Parliamentary franchise. The companion Bill abolishing plural voting will allow a man having business premises in the City and a residence in the country to elect between the two constituencies. He may vote for one or for the other, but he will not be allowed to vote for both. In this the Government reproduce the proposal of the Gillies Deakin Administration. The voter will not be called upon to choose his constituency until he enters the polling booth. He will then be asked if he has previously exercised the franchise at the same election. If he replies in the negative he will be able to record his vote. Should he give false information he is liable to a penalty of £50, and on a scrutiny his name will be struck off the list. He may choose one constituency at the general election and another at a bye election, and so change from time to time as he thinks fit.
News item in The Boroondara Standard Friday 5 June 1891
The distase (sic) amongst colonial girls for menial labour grows stronger every year, unfortunately for the country as well as for themselves. There is nothing degrading about honest labour, this however is not the opinion of the working classes, amongst whom their ideas of gentility rise with their means, consequently servants (both male and female) are at a premium, owing to their scarcity. Young girls shun service on being emacipated from their mothers apron strings, their great object being to get into a shop, their duties in which are not less agreeable, on account of the male element therein. Girls who ought to be learning their household duties, how to cook a dinner for their future husbands, which includes sending him to his mornings work with a good breakfast in him, and providing him with a clean and comfortable fire side after his work is done, and unless she knows enough of domestic economy to see to these things, she will never have or deserve to have a lover. The man, who with only a college education as a preparative, who would attempt the conduct of a printing office, would be ridiculed, and he who should apply for the place of foreman in a factory, knowing nothing of mechanics would be considered a lunatic, yet every day girls, without the least knowledge of housekeeping, take upon themselves the direction of some mans house without the faintest idea of knowing how to go about it, whereas she who can clean her own house and cook a dinner at need, is practically independent of servants, and if she has them, is able to direct them. German, Danish and French women of all ranks are instructed in household work, and cooking as carefully as many other branches of education, As for cooking, no woman ever regretted the time spent in learning it. The market is already overcrowded with shop girls, the ranks being recruited from the daughters of washerwomen, labourers wives and people of that class, who, thanks to the system of national education have acquired sufficient knowledge of arithmetic to tot up a few figures, dress like their betters, and to despise their parents – the pancity of domestic labour, will yet drive housekeepers to hotels, and is in fact now doing so.
An article in The Boroondara Standard Friday 26 June 1891 commenting on the impact of the trend of young women prefering not to be domestic servants
The Ladies' Column
Under the heading "Should Women be Sailors" an article recently appeared in the Pall Mall Budget which has been widely reprinted and discussed. The article purports to be written by " an Able Seaman". Jack Tar is not, as a rule, given to evolving "screeds," and when he does they smell not of the oil, but rather the brine, nor are nautical expressions uncommon. The "Able Seaman" who has raised the question "Should Women be Sailors" has written so much like a land-lubber that one would never suspected his avocation had he not announced it. In spite of this it takes all my faith to read his production as the emanation of a nautical man. He cites the case of a captain's wife bringing her ship to land under great difficulties, when her husband and the crew were prostrated by illness. True. Under extreme pressure women have done, and will do, many things that not only may not be desirable as a rule, but well-nigh impractical. I happen to have seen one women who performed just such a feat as this, and my opinion is that she possessed an amount of doggedness that the average woman would be as little likely to have in her character as the average man has the qualities of Napoleon. The writer continues that women have shown their capacity for "doing hard sums," and might safely be trusted with "the simple problems necessary to work out a ship’s course." That is not the point. Before a woman can arrive at the position that she has merely to work the "simple problems," she must have "been through the mill." I have never met a captain nor officer yet who has not been "before the mast." I have been there myself in the sailors' quarters, seen their food, their manner of feeding, their sleeping quarters, their comforts and discomforts, and do not think it would be possible for any woman with intelligence and an iota of refinement to endure the life while she qualified herself in a practical manner for a better position. Were the best positions given to women without probation, it would not only be unfair to the men, but militate against perfect efficiency. The writer continues – "The work on board ship is by no means hard, skill rather than strength being requisite. Certainly it cannot be said that steering and keeping a look-out, splicing, serving, and knotting ropes, trimming, furling, and bending sails, washing, scrubbing, painting, tarring, and scraping, which comprise the general work of a ship, call for greater expenditure on energy than many employments at which women are now engaged, as in some factories, attending at the pit brow, or the common labour of charing." All of which confirms my opinion that the writer never tried the work he writes about: some is fairly light work, the rest is hard enough. There is no comparison between scrubbing and scouring a ship and cleaning a house. Many a woman who could do the latter would not attempt the former. Still, no doubt, some women of the lower classes would be both able and willing to go as able seamen – instances are on record where, donning masculine attire, they have done so – but as an employment for women above the scum of society it is not to be thought of. Women should rarely, if ever, embark in work that they are not by nature better fitted to carry through with success than men. If they do, though they may succeed in outshining a few masculine noodles, they can never hope to vie with representative men in the various arenas they enter. Above and beyond which a woman is very foolish to undertake work that in any measure destroys her femininity. One should hardly, by any stretch, admire a lady captain as a woman if she possessed the skin some old salts do. Then illusion is made to the healthfulness of a seafaring life. The strengthening effects of the life on our sex would be very great, several maladies women are subject to would be ameliorated or cured by the life; but against this it must be remembered that weakness, hysteria, and some other things are hardly known amongst women of the working class, whose illnesses are usually actual disease, rather than mixt of indolence, imagination, and affectation, Which latter would certainly be cured by women turning sailors. [The ending of the article is difficult to read].
Article in The Boroondara Standard Friday 21 August 1891
Is Marriage a Failure?
It would appear from the number of cases that are continually being tried in the law courts to settle disputes between man and wife, that marriage sometimes results in failure. At the Box Hill Court last week a very respectable looking woman named OKEWELL proceeded against her husband on a charge of assault. The man who had promised to love and cherish his wife, in a fit of drunkenness, so ill-treated her that if she had not managed to have got from him there is no telling what the consequences might have been. He threw three great lumps of wood at her, and had either of them have struck the woman on the temple she might have fallen a corpse at his feet. This is only one of a number of such cases that are cropping up every day, and there are hundreds of such quarrels that are settled out of court. Neither are these disputes between man and wife confined to the lower orders of society. We find them …(print unclear)… community, though, perhaps in the higher classes there is not the same amount of brutality displayed. This may be owing entirely to culture and refinement, but the fact exists nevertheless, that in cultivated and high society we often hear of family eruptions and separations. For every cause there must be an effect. The disturbances which take place between man and wife ought not to occur, and there must be some reason - which, doubtless, is most difficult to find. Before the marriage takes place – at least, in most cases – ardent love and devotion is manifested on both sides. The parties do not see sufficient of each other to be able to form an opinion as to whether they are suited the one for the other. They enter, of their own free will and accord, into a solemn compact at the Himenial altar, that they will be true to one another until the union is broken by death. The marriage ceremony is one of the most solemn and binding that any person can undertake, and when once performed should be rigidly adhered to. Still, what does experience in these matters teach us? Hardly a week passes but we hear of some ungrateful brute attempting to murder his wife, whom he had only, perhaps, a few months previously, promised to love and cherish.
One of the reasons which doubtless leads to so many unhappy marriages amongst the working classes is probably owing to the fact that young women are too eager to get married! In other cases, doubtless, there are many young women who have such miserable homes and who have to work late and early to make a living, that they are glad to accept the first offer that is made to them, and when they "marry in haste they have to repent at leisure." In the case of the first mentioned they do not exercise sufficient care - they very seldom, if ever, consider if the man to whom they are about to unite themselves for life is at all suitable - are their temperaments the same - do their liking and temperaments run in the same grove – is there any deep attachment the one for the other. These are questions that are very seldom if ever asked, and more seldom thought over. In nine cases out of 10 it is simply: Can the man keep me; and if he can do this there the matter begins and ends. The result is that they soon grow tired of each other, and the man, instead of finding enjoyment at his own fireside, prefers to spend his leisure hours at the gin shop. He comes home with his temper ruffled, and his mind and brain all on a ferment with drink, and then vents his spite on the poor creature whom he openly avowed to love and cherish. The sequel is soon told. The next step in the drama is the Police Court, which, when once entered, all hope of future happiness is for ever abandoned. In higher life many girls marry for title and fortune, and vice versa. There is nothing beyond the mere sentiment of respect on either side, and as time goes by they find that they are entirely unsuited to each other, hence a life of bickering and intense unhappiness is the result, and in the end final …………… for each other, and as time rolls by that love is strengthened, then we have the happy union, which we are glad to say in Australia far exceeds the miserable ones, which tend to make marriage a failure.
Article in The Box Hill Reporter Friday 22 May 1891